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January 30, 2011 at 5:00 AM

Photographer Daniel Carrillo turns Seattle upside down

Posted by Kevin Fujii

ALAN BERNER / THE SEATTLE TIMES

Photographer Daniel Carrillo is seen on the ground glass, the focusing screen on the back of his antique 8-by-10 view camera. He purchased it on eBay and equipped with a century-old lens. Carrillo is accustomed to seeing inverted images to compose, focus and shoot.

Daniel Carrillo's view of the world would bring vertigo to most -- he likes seeing it upside down. It "makes you slow down, and it helps organize, helps compose."

Using thoroughly modern eBay, he bought an antique camera, an 8-by-10 Deardorff built beautifully of mahogany and brass.

It's cumbersome, used only on a tripod, and was first introduced almost 90 years ago. He attaches a century-old lens in front.

The optics of this camera invert everything.

Taking steps further back in time, Carillo uses wet-plate collodion technology, a process developed in 1851.

That means making a piece of glass light-sensitive with the viscous liquid collodion and toxic chemicals, exposing it and immediately developing it. It's what William Henry Jackson used when he brought back the first photographs of what became Yellowstone National Park.

Carrillo forgoes the ox-drawn wagon or camera-carrying mules that Jackson used.

He seeks out downtown construction sites, city scenes and especially portraits, "trudging along looking for the next photograph."

He makes one-second exposures in full sunlight, 10 times slower than a digital point-and-shoot.

They're rough around the edges, with a very shallow focus of an inch or less.

"The process itself lends itself to a lot of flaws."

Yet, Carrillo's plates are "one of a kind" positives.

"They're a tightrope walk between image and artifact with plenty of imperfections. They're never perfect, and it's kind of liberating."

ALAN BERNER / THE SEATTLE TIMES

Under a dark cloth and ignoring the chilly weather, Daniel Carrillo uses his 8-by-10 Deardorff view camera to make a glass-plate image in Pioneer Square. He then dashes into a nearby, makeshift darkroom to develop and fix the image.

ALAN BERNER / THE SEATTLE TIMES

Ashley Siple sits for a portrait during a two-hour session to produce four photographs, done with a constant lighting source and 4-second exposures. Carrillo says the ASA or "film speed" of his plates is "one, maybe two."

ALAN BERNER / THE SEATTLE TIMES

David Carrillo adjusts this circa 1930 11-by-14 Deardorff camera on a stand only used indoors. The camera, lens and stand weigh about 150 pounds. He's using an 8-by-10 inch back on it for this session.

ALAN BERNER / THE SEATTLE TIMES

Carrillo develops the glass plate in a small darkroom with a 15-watt red light.

ALAN BERNER / THE SEATTLE TIMES

Carrillo produces positive images on glass plates that have imperfections, especially around the edges. But this underscores the character of this process.

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